Sterilizing Jars for Canning

Sterilizing jars for canning is an important step in the home canning process. Although washing jars in hot soapy water is important, it isn't enough to ensure a clean, germ-free environment. A second step is needed to kill bacteria that might still be hanging around and make your jars are sterile and ready to use for canning.

There are three easy ways to sterilize jars for canning. All three are effective and simple to do, so it's just a matter of preference (or space) as to which one you use.

Boiling to Sterilize

The first method is to boil jars. To do this, you need a large stock pot filled with water. Place your jars in the stock pot and bring water to a boil. Boil for at least 5 minutes. Remove with jar grabbers and place upside down on clean paper towels until ready to use. Or, if you want to keep your jars hot until you use them, keep them in the hot water (with the burner turned off) until ready to use and pull them out one at a time to fill.

Dishwasher Sterilizing

If you have a dishwasher, this is the easiest method. Simply load the jars into your dishwasher and run it through a cycle. Since many dishwashers take some time to run through a washing/drying cycle, you need to plan ahead to use this method. I usually start the dishwasher before I start my food prep and try to time the dishwasher cycle to finish when I need the jars.

A bonus to this method is that you're not using valuable stove top space while you're canning. It's also easy to keep your jars hot by leaving them in the dishwasher and pulling them out one at a time to use.

Oven Sterilizing

Since not everyone has a dishwasher, nor do they have space to boil pots while they're in the middle of canning, this third option might be the best. Simple 'bake' your jars to sterilize them.

To use this method, wash your jars with hot soapy water and rinse with hot water. Dry the jars and place them upright on an oven rack. Turn the oven on to 225 degrees and allow jars to 'bake' for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes are up, I turn the oven down to the lowest setting so that the jars stay warm, but aren't too hot to touch to pull them out.

I like this method especially well when I'm doing a variety of canning in one session and need my jars to stay warm for a long period of time.

Regardless of which method you choose, sterilizing your canning jars is an essential step in the canning process, but thankfully it's an easy part of the process.

Kerrie Hubbard lives in Portland, Oregon with 10 chickens, 1 cat and several small raised bed gardens. Her website, City Girl Farming ( http://www.citygirlfarming.com ) is an urban guide to raising and growing your own food in small spaces. For some canning recipes, see: http://www.citygirlfarming.com/Preservation/CanningRecipes.html

Photo Credit: Pioneerthinking.com

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